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I was recently asked the question on Instagram, “How do I deal with bodily discomfort due to weight gain (and shame about that)?” This is a fairly common question for those of us in body liberation circles. And it can be offensive to us fatties. What started off as a witty quip about not asking a fat person to provide the emotional labor of teaching them how to…not feel disgusting in a body that looks like mine, turned into a lengthy and more compassionate response. I realized, yeah, even I still feel discomfort sometimes when I notice that my body has changed or grown in one way or another. And I’ve been fat my whole life, it has happened a lot!
This isn’t just something that thin people experience when they age and realize that the demise of their desirability is inevitable. Its not just for the folks concerned about returning back to work after pandemic related weight gain. And this question isn’t just for those worried about revealing their not-so-cut beach bodies either. This affects a lot of us; the forever thins, the current fatties, former fatties, and fatties in the making. Our bodies are going to change. Probably in a way that makes us weigh more, at some point. So, for those of us who are working on our commitment to body liberation and unpacking fatphobia, how do we tackle the emotional and physical discomfort we feel when we notice we have gained weight?
a superfat serving from this superfat body
My experience is this: There are two factors at play here that make this situation hurt. Because it does hurt, right? That moment of realizing your favorite jeans don’t fit anymore hurts. If you’re fat it feels like failing at being a “good fatty,” meaning, one that prescribes to the notion that fatness is inherently unhealthy and that thinness will bring happiness. If you’re thin, it must feel like failing at maintaining beauty, value, and even your worth. I can’t be certain because I’ve never been thin, but the phrase “letting yourself go” comes to mind.
Who profits off of me feeling this way?
The first step we need to take is questioning the narratives we have about fat bodies. Are you feeling ashamed of how you look? Why are you afraid of being fat? Why do you equate being fat to being undesirable? Do you want to be focused on being desirable, if those are the conditions? Are you catastrophizing about what fat must mean about your health? How will society treat you as a fat person?
Asking yourself these kinds of questions should help you be more compassionate as you recognize that the problem is not you or your body. The problem is the toxicity of our cultural obsession with thinness. It should also bring clarity to how you want to navigate these situations going forward. If you find it hard to remember what kinds of questions to ask, start here: “Who profits off of me feeling this way?” Because the best way to sell us shit we don’t need is by making us discontent with our bodies as they are. Our world has convinced us that we need diets, slim waists, and injections to be beautiful. We can choose to live differently.
Addressing Body Dysphoria to Aid in liberation
When I evaluate myself with compassion and adjust my expectations to what is actually comfortable for me and not a societal standard that I don’t agree with, I find that body dysphoria moments pass with greater ease.
The second piece of this puzzle is about addressing the dysphoric feeling you experience when you’ve gained weight. It usually comes up when you try a task or an item of clothing again for the first time. I describe this as “body dysphoria” because it can feel like gender dysphoria. As a trans person, it feels reminiscent of how I experience gender dysphoria myself. It’s a sudden moment of unfamiliarity with my body, extreme discomfort, and even fear around it. Frustration. Feeling triggered, even.
For example, I hadn’t sat on the floor in a long time to stretch out my legs and when I tried recently, it was much harder to put my feet together in a “butterfly pose,” than I remembered. As I pushed myself to get my feet as close as possible, I noticed how far apart they still were and I felt ashamed. I suddenly couldn’t do what I remember being able to do with my body. Frustrated with myself, I didn’t like how I felt in my body at that moment. I started spiraling and blaming myself, my apron belly is way bigger. It’s more in the way than it was before. My calves hurt against the floor. Are they bruising? This is so uncomfortable. I hate this.
But what if we reframed it to being more about discomfort with something unexpected and unfamiliar, taking the judgment completely out of it? I find that “getting familiar with my body again” relieves some of this discomfort. When I evaluate myself with compassion and adjust my expectations to what is actually comfortable for me and not a societal standard that I don’t agree with, I find that the dysphoria moments pass with greater ease.
Body Compassion is key
So, reacquaint yourself with this body you have right now. Be compassionate about it. Touch yourself with care. Take note of how it feels to move, to stretch, to dance. And be in it without judgment! I know this sounds easier said than done. Start with simply interrupting negative/judgmental thoughts. Notice when they arise and redirect yourself to kindness.
And when it’s about clothing that doesn’t fit anymore, just get bigger clothes if you have the means, you know? Stop holding onto pieces that no longer fit. Using smaller jeans as inspiration to shrink yourself is a form of self harm. You leave it in your closet as a reminder of a body you have deemed more valuable than your current one. It perpetuates the shame you’re trying to combat. Relieve yourself of those obstacles, love, and size up.
Are you on a path to body liberation and looking for more support? Are you interested in actionable steps you can take to create alignment with the way you interact with your body and the various pillars of your life? How can you find body liberation to live your life to its fullest while in a world determined to oppress it? Corissa of Fat Girl Flow addresses all this and more in her new course Full Circle Body Liberation. 7 modules, 18 worksheets, 5 guided meditations, one hot instructor, and a community of folks learning right alongside you. Click here to enroll.